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Topics: Scheduling
Project Charter and Project Plan
What is the difference between the project charter and the project plan? Most of our projects are very small. We don't do a charter, we plan it and do it.
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Dear Anonymous, typically a project charter is prepared during project initiation and if the project charter is approved, the project effort goes into the planning process where that project plan is prepared. This can save a great deal of time and money as well as ensure quality. In some organizations, the decision to do a project may happen by other means. Hence the approved projects are handed over to a PM to be planned and executed much like you described. Hope this helps. -- Mark Perry, VP of Customer Care, BOT International
Yes, it depends on your organization. Some organizations may not have a charter but a statement of work (but the purpose remains the same).
Dear Anon,

You have hit on one of my greatest pet peeves. I'm so glad you are asking.

1. By definition, a project charter is supposed to be a one page document basically assigning\giving authority to a specific project manager\program manager.

2. Many people confuse this with a scope document. A scope document should state exactly what the objectives and success criteria are for this project. It should also state was is NOT in scope for the project.

3. A project plan SHOULD NOT be confused with a project schedule... I see this over and over again in various companies. A project plan is a combination of several documents - it is the narrative of how you are going to attack this project. I should consist of Scope Document, Change Management Plan, Issues Management Plan, Risk Management Plan, Communications Management Plan, Quality Assurance\Testing Plan, Resource Management Plan, Training Plan, etc.

4. The SCHEDULE is exactly that - a schedule that says what deliverables will be done, duration it takes to create deliverables, dependancies, resources, etc.

Sorry if I sound preachy but you hit a nerve on this one. A schedule is not the same thing as a plan.
Another way to think about thiis is that the scope document = WHAT & WHY, the project plan = HOW & WHO and the schedule = WHEN - Hope this helps.
I like that simplification. Thanks!
I'm in complete agreement with Bethany. The charter is the authorization to begin work, not a project plan. I think even PMI confuses this for us.
Well stated and clarified. I also agree with Bethany that there is too much confusion about the definition of the project documentation. Too many times, companies don't want to bother with the formality of a charter. They often want the need for a charter to be satisfied by the scope statement with emails/memos declaring approval and PM authority. Unfortunately, this is often the reality we must accept in corporate and consulting environments.
I have read the replies and I still don't get it. My company is very confused about this. When I started as a PM I looked at our templates for Charter and Plan and they are almost identical. They also are started in the same project phase and both created by the PM. So I asked why I needed to create 2 giant documents that are exactly the same and I was told that we just do the plan. The our PMO created a 1 page Powerpoint that the client fills in. It is very short but it seemed to at least serve a purpose because up to that point I couldn't seem to get clients to put into writing what they wanted fixed/change and why it would be a good idea. Now I have a new boss who wants a Charter but I don't think he wants either of those documents. What exactly should be in the Charter? How is that different from the Plan? Is the Charter really the same but just an earlier version of the Plan?

Bethany made a great effort to explain the differences between Charter, Plan and Schedule. As said the the charter is a one-pager describing the terms of engagement between the project manager and the client. Although the content looks the same as a plan there is a difference. The plan describes the project the charter the terms of engagement of for the pm. I use normally the acronym BOSCARD to describe the charter in a one pager
B background what is the importance and why are we doing it
O objectives of the ToE Could be write the project plan for a successful project
S Scope of the ToE
C Constraints e.g. time people and costs
A Assumptions
R Roles and responsibilities
Who is doing what in terms of RACI
D Deliverables
What is the outcome of the Terms of Engagement

The engagement can be to produce a project plan to implement a new solution for the sales department. The objective is to get a budget indication etc etc.

One page should do

Hopes this helps
Hi Jodie,

You write, "Now I have a new boss who wants a Charter but I don't think he wants either of those documents."

Seems to me that you should look at your new boss like any other client: if you don't know what he wants, ASK HIM! Get him to explain what information he wants to know, in what format, on how many documents, etc. Gather the requirements and then build a Charter that meets his expectations.

We can all talk about that are the "official" definitions of Charter, Plan, Schedule, and whatever, but really, if your company hasn't adopted PMI or OGC methodologies, then it's really up to you to define what YOUR project charter is.
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